Back to News & Commentary

Nashville Still Friendliest City in the World "English First" Law Fails

Tricia Herzfeld,
ACLU of Tennessee
Share This Page
January 23, 2009

Yesterday the people of Nashville showed that they will continue the city’s fine tradition of openness, inclusiveness and hospitality. In an expensive special election, they roundly rejected councilman Eric Crafton’s divisive “English First” law. The law would have barred government employees from communicating with businesses, tourists, hospital patients and crime victims in languages other than English.

The ACLU opposed the law because the initiative’s restrictions on the delivery of government services would have violated free speech protections of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The community was not about to let this measure pass and came out in record numbers. Normally, a special election in Nashville only brings out about 40,000 people, but this one brought out nearly double that amount. It was incredibly moving.

Our country is full of new hope and progress. If this law had passed, it would have felt like everyone else was moving forward, while Nashville was moving backwards. But the vote last night proved that there is new sense of pride and unity in Nashville too.

The broad coalition that came together to defeat this law from business, faith, civil rights and health and safety groups was truly amazing. We are a city that joined together to change for the better. We in Nashville look forward to more good work for change as a unified and welcoming community and country.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page